Academic journal article Environmental Law

Migratory Bird Treaties' Issues and Potentials: Are They Valuable Tools or Just Curios in the Box?

Academic journal article Environmental Law

Migratory Bird Treaties' Issues and Potentials: Are They Valuable Tools or Just Curios in the Box?

Article excerpt

I.   INTRODUCTION
II.  MBT ACHIEVEMENTS
III. ARE MBTs OUTDATED AND LOSING THEIR MERITS?
IV.  MAKING MORE USE OF THE MBT: FORGOTTEN TOOL IN THE BOX
V.   MAKING MBTs MORE USEFUL: REFURBISHING THE TOOL BOX
VI.  CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Beginning with the 1902 Convention for the Protection of Birds Useful to Agriculture, (1) which was signed by twelve European countries, and the 1916 Convention between the United States and Great Britain for the Protection of Migratory Birds (U.S./Canada Convention), (2) migratory bird treaties (MBTs) are known to be one of the oldest sources of international environmental law. After briefly looking at the past achievements of MBTs in Part II, Part III of this Essay discusses whether MBTs are becoming less important in light of emerging multinational agreements and initiatives. After discussing the merits of MBTs, Part IV considers ways to maximize utilization and efficacy of the provisions of MBTs, which are often overlooked. Finally, Part V argues for amendments to MBTs to improve the level of avian protection. Discussion in this Essay centers on MBTs signed either by Japan or the United States; however, the arguments should be applicable to MBTs in general.

II. MBT ACHIEVEMENTS

Ratification of the U.S./Canada Convention led to the enactment of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), (3) which opened a new era in United States conservation policy. The MBTA initiated the federal government's commitment to wildlife conservation. As in the United States, MBTs have also led to a strengthening of Japan's domestic conservation statutes. The predecessor of the Act on Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (4) (the Japanese Endangered Species Act) was promulgated in 1972 to implement the Convention between the United States and Japan for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Birds in Danger of Extinction, and their Environment (U.S./Japan MBT), (5) which was signed earlier in that year. Japan's involvement in the U.S./Japan MBT was initiated by a resolution from the International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP), which is the predecessor of BirdLife International. (6) In 1960, the ICBP met in Tokyo for the first time in Asia and recommended that the governments expand the network of MBTs in the Asian region. (7) After signing the 1972 U.S./Japan MBT, Japan signed three other MBTs with neighboring countries: Russia, (8) Australia, (9) and China. (10) Japan also signed an agreement with South Korea, known as the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Protection. (11)

Since then, MBTs have been a powerful device to facilitate, encourage, and justify expensive and often low-priority bird conservation and research in Japan. Of recent examples, the recovery projects of the short-tailed albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) are particularly illuminating. (12)

The short-tailed albatross is a majestic seabird that nests on isolated oceanic islets in the North Pacific. (13) This species of albatross, once amazingly abundant, was gravely exploited for the feather trade in the early twentieth century. (14) The population of the birds declined so drastically that an American expedition shortly after World War II once reported the species to be extinct. (15) The short-tailed albatross was then "re-discovered" on Torishima, a remote volcanic island belonging to Japan; however, the birds were few and the recovery of the breeding birds was slow due to the vulnerability of the nesting site. (16) The nesting site sits on a steep outwash slope, which suffers frequent mudslides aggravated by the loose volcanic soil of the island. (17)

Hope of recovery for the short-tailed albatross was dependent on the successful relocation of the nesting sites. (18) Beginning in the late 1970s, Japanese ornithologist Dr. Hiroshi Hasegawa devoted himself to the conservation of the albatross. (19) In 1991, Dr. Hasegawa, with the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology (Yamashina Institute), initiated a project to relocate the nesting site to a safer location on Torishima. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.